transporting casket

What Happens When a Death Occurs Away from Home?

Death is an inevitable part of life. When it claims the person we love, it not only brings with it a wave of emotions but practicalities must be addressed. Although that may sound harsh, those left behind have no other choice but to make preparations under emotional strain. And when a loved one dies away from home, planning funeral services can become even more challenging. Let’s explore what happens when a death occurs away from home and the steps that need to be taken to navigate this difficult and unexpected situation.


The Initial Shock

Losing a loved one is always a heart-wrenching experience. It’s amplified when it happens far from home, with the initial shock being overwhelming. Whether the death occurs during a vacation or a business trip in a different town or country, the first step is to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Feelings of disbelief and helplessness are common, but you can’t get stuck on those feelings. To help you out, reach out to friends, family, or local support networks for comfort and assistance.


Notify the Authorities

The first practical step is to notify the local authorities, like the city police or emergency services (based on circumstances). They are the best people to handle the immediate situation. Proper officials provide guidance on the legal and administrative procedures you need to follow. It’s crucial to stay in close contact with them throughout the process to ensure all necessary arrangements are made correctly. It can be particularly tricky if it’s in another country, so you may also seek the assistance of your embassy. 


Identify and Notify Next of Kin

If you are not the deceased’s next of kin, it’s important to notify the immediate family. If you’re related, you may also notify other family members for support. This could be a spouse, parent, older child, or another designated individual. Communication is key during these challenging times. Informing the family promptly will help them understand the situation and help them make important decisions.


Funeral and Repatriation

When a death occurs away from home, the major problem is how to deal with the remains. The following options are available for you during these trying times: 

  1. Burial or Cremation in the Same Place

The deceased can be buried or cremated in the location of their death. This option is often chosen when the family wishes to hold a funeral or memorial service at that location for whatever personal reason they have.

  1. Repatriation

This involves transporting the remains back to their hometown or country of origin for whatever final disposition method the family chooses (burial or cremation). This option is commonly chosen to ensure the deceased rests in a place that holds special meaning for them and their family.

  1. Donating the Body

In some cases, the deceased may have expressed a desire to donate their body to science or medical research. So the body could be donated in the area where they passed away. This is a noble choice, but it requires careful planning and coordination with a medical institution.

  1. Cremation and Ashes

Another option is cremation for easy and more affordable transport. The deceased’s body is cremated in the place of death. Then, the ashes placed in an urn can be returned to the family for memorialization, scattering, or interment in a columbarium.

It’s important to consult with local authorities, funeral directors, and transportation services to make the necessary arrangements. If the deceased has travel insurance, call the agent to ask for requirements and what expenses are covered. Notably, repatriation, in particular, involves significant logistical considerations, including proper documentation, embalming, and transportation, which can be quite complex and costly.


Legal and Administrative Matters

Handling the legal and administrative aspects of a death that occurs away from home can be very tedious and complicated. You may need to do the following: 

  • Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate
  • Comply with local and international laws
  • Work with insurance companies
  • Seek the help of embassies and consulates 

Seeking assistance from professionals experienced in international affairs is highly recommended to avoid complications.


Emotional Support

Losing a loved one is emotionally challenging. But when it occurs far from home, the distance, unfamiliar surroundings, and lack of friendly faces can amplify the distress. Thus, it’s crucial to seek support from:

  • Local grief counseling services
  • Bereavement support groups
  • A therapist or psychologist
  • Religious affiliation 

These are ways that help you and your family cope. It’s also vital to lean on friends and family for comfort and assistance during this difficult time.



When a death occurs away from home, it brings a unique set of challenges and complexities that require careful consideration and planning. Handling the logistics of the deceased’s remains can be overwhelming. However, with the right support, it’s possible to navigate this difficult situation and lay your loved one to rest while honoring their final wishes. Remember that you are not alone! Take advantage of the resources available to help you through these rough times.